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September 2014
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Martin 000X1AE Acoustic Guitar Review

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Martin 000X1AE Acoustic Guitar Review

Few small-body guitars are as important or influential as Martin’s venerable 000. Legions of players consider it the perfect acoustic—an ideal convergence of volume, harmonic balance, comfort, and responsiveness that can deliver musical magic. Some of the 000’s biggest fans are fingerstylists who love the aforementioned qualities of the 000 and its wide-neck, longer-scale cousin, the OM. But a good fingerstyle guitar has to be playable, and it needs some proper balance of the power/complexity/comfort equation to really communicate the nuances of intricate fingerstyle work.

Few mass manufacturers deliver so regularly on that combination as Martin. They all but invented the template, after all. But it isn’t easy to put all this together in a package the budget-minded player can afford. And that’s where the Mexican-built 000X1AE enters the scene.

Martin makes the 000X1 largely through the crafty use of alternative materials. The back and sides are high-pressure laminate (HPL), the fretboard is crafted from Richlite, and the neck is made from Stratobond—a many-layered laminate that takes on a cool psychedelic fanning appearance at the heel.

Alternative materials or not, the Martin is immaculately crafted, and the mothership in Nazareth seems to run a very tight satellite operation in Mexico. There’s not a trace of errant glue or sloppy cuts anywhere on the body’s interior and the construction quality elsewhere on the guitar is exceptional. That said, the satin finish on both the top, back, and neck feels like it could use a little more, well—satin and finish. Our own exposure to these guitars suggests that hours of playing time tend to smooth both the neck and top surfaces in particular, but as the guitar is out of the case, it has a feel more akin to rustic pine furniture, albeit flawlessly built rustic pine furniture.

Ratings

Pros: Excellent build quality. Cool midrange. Excellent playability.

Cons: Lacks dynamic range.

Tones:

Playability:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street: $549
martinguitar.com

Loves a Light Touch
Just as you might hope, the 000X1 sounds like it was made for fingerpicking and it rewards a nuanced touch and inventive fingerstyle techniques. For instance, when hybrid picking closer to the bridge, you can coax neat compressed tones from the 4th and 5th strings. And soft thumbpicking has an almost pre-equalized recorded quality that fits exquisitely with folky harmony vocals.

Intonation is just about perfect and chords have an even, midrange feel that’s ideal for suspended chords or open tunings with a lot of ringing strings. When combined with the very smooth playability, the midrange-centric palette can sound very civilized or even refined, when you play complex chord voicings up the neck. It does, however, lack some of the detail and dynamics you’d hear from a good spruce-and-mahogany or all-mahogany 000. That said, there are no dead spots on the neck, and note-to-note definition is excellent.

While you can’t really drive the 000 too hard for rock rhythm playing, if you want an affordable, fingerstyle-friendly small body that emphasizes harmonic accuracy and playability, the 000X1AE will deliver the goods. It’s an ideal second guitar to have on hand to contrast with a booming dread, and in a recording situation, the midrange emphasis in its voice makes it an excellent accompaniment to an electric track. Best of all, it’s built to Martin’s high standards, which means no matter how you use it at first, you’ll likely have years to discover its trove of musical possibilities.

Watch our video demo:

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